Published online Oct 7, 2006. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v12.i37.5941
Revised: March 12, 2006
Accepted: June 16, 2006
Published online: October 7, 2006
The prokaryotic and eukaryotic cells of the colon exist in a highly complex, but harmonious relationship. Disturbances in this remarkable symbiosis can result in the development of inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD). Although the etiology of IBD is not entirely understood, it is known that the chronic inflammation of Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis and chronic pouchitis are a result of an overly aggressive immune response to the commensal intestinal flora in genetically susceptible hosts. Recent studies have enhanced our ability to understand the interaction between the host and its intestinal microflora and the role the microflora plays in maintaining intestinal homeostasis. As we begin to understand the benefits conferred to the intestine by the microflora, the notion of modifying the composition of the bacterial load to improve human health has arisen. A significant body of research now exists investigating the role of probiotics and prebiotics in ameliorating chronic intestinal inflammation. This article will begin with an overview of the role of the commensal microflora in maintaining mucosal immune homeostasis, and how a dysregulated immune response to the intestinal microflora results in IBD. This will be followed by a summary of the use of probiotics and prebiotics in experimental and human IBD.